Author Joanne Harris is perhaps best known for her novels and short stories, but the Huddersfield writer is also a musician and will be appearing with her #Storytime show at Holmfirth Arts Festival on Saturday, June 16.
The hashtag in the title refers to the fact that her four-piece ensemble, the Storytime Band, plays music and songs based on Joanne’s live storytelling to her 28,000 followers on the social media platform Twitter. The stories, told in 140-character segments, are to be released in a new book, Honeycomb.
It’s a show that combines storytelling, songs, music and images and often takes audiences by surprise. #Storytime has been described as ‘intimate, engaging, quirky and darkly magical’, but it’s not easy to explain in words. As Joanne herself says: “I’m not sure that people always get what it’s going to be like. They are often surprised. It’s the sort of show you really have to be there to see.” Both the Twitter stories and songs have a particular appeal for lovers of myths, fairytales and fantasy.
A former teacher, Joanne became a musician long before she was a novelist and music has played a huge part in her life. While just 16-years-old, and a classically-trained flautist, she joined a college prog rock band and learned to play bass guitar in order to spend time with the drummer, Kevin Harris. Their union over the drumsticks turned into marriage and they, quite literally, have been making music together ever since. The Storytime Band is, in a sense, the same outfit that they first performed with back in 1981, although other members have come and gone.
Joanne and Kevin have always played music together, but for several years they stepped back from performing. Joanne explains: “We were writing music for our own entertainment but didn’t go out of our way to gig. But now we have had seven or eight gigs this spring and we did nine last year.”
The Storytime Band comprises Kevin on drums and vocals; Paul Marshall on keyboards, guitar and vocals; Matty Cundy on bass; and Joanne on flute, vocals and storytelling.
Performing provides Joanne with another creative outlet and one that takes her away from the solitude of novel writing. She says there’s a good reason why so many writers with an interest in music seek out the sociability of band membership: “It’s a nice way to do something creative with other people. And song-writing is an easy step from novel writing. Stories and music are something easy to put together.”
While Joanne’s fame as a novelist was launched by Chocolat, made into a film, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, she’s since written 15 more novels, two collections of short stories, a Dr Who novella, guest episodes for the game Zombies, Run and three cookbooks. Her latest, Honeycomb is due out in autumn 2018.
The #Storytime show can be seen on June 16 at 7pm in Holmfirth Parish Church, Towngate. Ticket details from holmfirthartsfestival.co.uk
Joanne and her band will also be appearing at the Underneath the Stars Festival, South Yorkshire, on July 22.